A champion leg spinner is coming over the wicket. The batsman charges, flicks the ball to the midwicket fence and in a rare display of emotion, pumps his arms in joy. A crowd of a hundred thousand goes delirious while the champion bowler applauds. Rahul Sharad Dravid’s legend was born there.
Over the next few years, whenever there was a tuffmatch crying for a masterclass, Dravid was there. 115 at Nottingham, 148 at Leed’s, 233 at Adelaide, 270 at Pindi, 31 and 25 at Mumbai (considering we won by 13 runs on a minefield), 125 and 131 at The Eden again and 68 and 81 at Kingston are knocks I cherish because they give me a nostalgic trip with a lot of memories now. As much as I go weak on my knees at Dravid the player, he is also special for giving those moments of watching your team perform well in the purest format in the toughest of conditions. It was a pure joy. Here was a player who was not the most attractive batsman, never destroyed attacks and did not invent shots. He was just a technically correct, gritty batsman who would put his body before the wicket.
Dravid as an ODI batsman was not considered a natural in the mould of a Sehwag or a Yuvraj but Dravid the test batsman was a different beast. By being out of form in his last series, he has shown us how much we will miss him when he is out forever. Dravid the captain is also much underrated because of a World Cup failure. As a test captain, he brought us series triumphs in West Indies and England after three and a half decades. We still consider him a letdown as a captain. We are not to be blamed because he wasn’t a roaring success either but wouldn’t we be short sighted if we judged success with limited overs Cricket alone as a yardstick, considering his fair returns as a test captain?
With Dravid, one will never remember any trademark stroke as is associated with the other legends in his team. What we will remember though, is the everlasting struggle, a struggle that you and I can relate to. He was just one among us, with no real talent but went on to show that with grit, you can score centuries in all test playing nations. That you can end up successful in a format you are not cut out for. His toil was the platform upon which a middling team could rise to become the Number 1 team in the World. The least we owe him is a thank you.
Rewinding to 1996, one saw a young man with a V100 brand on his bat walk out on his test debut, already overshadowed by a mate who had scored a ton. Little would he, or we, realize that this would be the story of his life. He scored 95, promptly earning the sobriquet chamathu from my mother. There was immense promise and I, for some strange reason as an eight year old, started to like him. It was my formative Cricket watching days and the cream of that team which went on to represent India over the next decade and half were a part of my childhood as they were with more than half my fellow Indians. What I was to realize later was this was the best Indian team in 7 decades. A little before this gyaan, I knew that we were playing cricket for 7 decades. Starting with depressing lows in the late 90s, the team blossomed in the noughties. What remains of both the team and the childhood are only memories now. As with Dravid, Adelaide was where it reached the peak. It is ironic that Adelaide is where it should touch a trough and end. As with his career, the end also came with a struggle. His retirement or the second 4-0 in less than a year will not signal the end of life. Life has to move on. In the meantime, thank you, Rahul Dravid, for the memories.